Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Mahatma Gandhi Backward Region Development Fund

Mahatma Gandhi Backward Region Development Fund

(Read the following material on the Backward Region Development Fund. There is room for many MCQs on this item)

The Mahatma Gandhi Backward Region Development Fund was launched by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh at Berpeta in Assam. The Rs 3,750-crore Fund, originally known as the Backward Region Grant Fund, will provide resources for supplementing and converging existing developmental inflows to 250 districts across the country, official sources told media. The scheme was established to bridge critical gaps in local infrastructure and other development requirements that were not being adequately met through existing allocations. To improve the performance and delivery of critical functions assigned to panchayats, a need was felt to strengthen panchayat and municipality-level governance with more appropriate capacity building to facilitate participatory planning, decision-making, implementation and monitoring, the sources said. The scheme for the 250 backward districts was conceived and piloted through the Cabinet by the Planning Commission as the successor to the earlier Rashtriya Sam Vikas Yojana (RSVY). This was done with the view of rectifying deficiencies in the conceptual framework of RSVY. The key difference between RSVY and MGBRDF is the focus on district planning as provided for in the Constitution. A sum of Rs 3,750 crore for the current year has been placed at the disposal of Panchayati Raj ministry to administer the scheme, particularly because of the centrality of panchayats in the planning and implementation of the Fund. The budget provision is expected to rise to Rs 4,400 crore from the next fiscal, the sources said. The funds allotted under the scheme will go to the State Consolidated Fund and every identified district will receive a fixed minimum amount of Rs 10 crore a year plus additional allocations of Rs five crore depending on population and area. The scheme covers all districts where the National Rural Employment Guarantee programme is being implemented. Fifty per cent of the balance of the allocation will be allocated on the ratio of the share of the population of the district to the total population of all backward districts.

It aims at promoting the training of “barefoot engineers”, “community- level agricultural extension workers” and local level specialists who can be of direct utility in each panchayat. The scheme also stresses the need for district planning committees in backward regions to facilitate effective planning in non-MGBRGDF districts in accordance with Planning Commission guidelines to serve as the foundation of the 11th Five-Year Plan. As the funds are untied, panchayats are expected to use them for "gap filling" in existing development programmes to build up development infrastructure so as to close the gap between backward and non-backward districts. Close on the heels of the rural job guarantee scheme, government is all set to implement an ambitious Rs 50 billion (Rs 5,000 crore) project to help develop India's backward regions and erase regional imbalances. Government has decided to revamp the Rashtriya Sam Vikas Yojana (RSVY) programme by expanding its reach and focusing on infrastructure development in backward areas.Unlike the RSVY programme, which currently covers only 47 most backward districts, the new development fund for backward regions will cover 250 districts - a little less than half the total number of India's 604 districts.The fund would provide each of the 250 districts a minimum of Rs 100 million per annum, besides an additional allocation depending upon the geographical area and population of the district.The fund allocated to each backward district would go directly to the Consolidated Fund of the state.As proof of its commitment to erase regional imbalances, the major chunk of funds would go to most needy and backward states like Bihar and "KBK regions" of Orissa.The KBK region comprises the erstwhile Kalahandi, Bolangir and Koraput districts.The Rs 50 billion MGBRD Fund comprises three components - a Rs 10 billion special package for Bihar, another Rs 2.5 billion for the KBK region of Orissa and the remaining Rs 37.5 billion to be distributed among all the selected backward districts on the basis of their area and population.Perhaps the greatest beneficiary of the new fund will be Bihar. As many as 36 of the state's 37 districts have been included under the scheme.Accordingly, in addition to the Rs 10 billion special package, 36 districts of Bihar would together get another Rs 3.6 billion.The new fund would include all the 200 districts where the UPA government's flagship programme, the rural job guarantee scheme unveiled last year, has been implemented.The funds under the regional disparity elimination fund would be specifically used to build sustainable infrastructure like roads, schools, dispensaries, bridges and power transmission lines.The rural job guarantee scheme, on the other hand, envisages projects that generate mass rural employment and is aimed at ensuring means of sustenance to the rural poor.The regional disparity fund will try to bridge critical gaps in local infrastructure and other development requirements that are not being adequately met through existing schemes, including the rural job guarantee scheme.

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